Itching for a New Cytokine

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Science  16 Jul 2004:
Vol. 305, Issue 5682, pp. 313
DOI: 10.1126/science.305.5682.313c

Activation of the immune system can guard against pathogens that cause disease, but when they go awry the same mechanisms can lead to autoimmune diseases or allergies. For instance, atopic dermatitis, an inflammatory skin disease that is frequently associated with hay fever or asthma, appears to involve abnormal cytokine production by T helper type 2 (TH2) cells. Dillon et al. identified a TH2 cell-derived cytokine, interleukin 31 (IL-31), and its receptor IL-31 receptor A (IL-31RA) on lymphoid and epithelial cells. Transgenic mice that overexpressed IL-31 in lymphocytes developed pruritis, skin lesions, and hair loss, as did mice treated directly with IL-31. In a model of airway hyperresponsiveness, exposure of presensitized mice to antigen stimulated IL-31RA expression in the lung. Thus, IL-31 appears to be involved in mediating dermatitis and hyperresponsive airway disease. — EMA

Nat. Immunol. 5, 752 (2004).

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